WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after a federal judge dismissed all charges against the two U.S. Park Police officers involved in the November 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar:
“Our hearts go out to Bijan Ghaisar’s loved ones, who have spent more than four years searching for closure following the fatal shooting of Bijan by two U.S. Park Police officers. We are deeply disappointed by this decision by Attorney General Miyares to end Virginia’s pursuit of justice for Bijan and his family. This decision only stands to cause further harm to the Fairfax County community while preventing a heartbroken family from reaching the closure they desperately need. We will continue to support the Ghaisar family’s pursuit of justice for Bijan.”
In January of 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine, and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Sen. Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Bijan.
In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.
In November 2019, Sens. Warner and Grassley pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explaining its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. In February 2020, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting. Later that July, Sen. Warner pressed NPS for answers regarding its internal affairs investigation into the killing of Bijan, and the following month, he joined Sen. Grassley in a letter expressing concern over the department’s refusal to answer a number of questions in a briefing. In October 2020, Sen. Warner reiterated the need for justice after Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve T. Descano brought forth two charges against the officers.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – October 5, 2022
It was business as usual in Washington as Democrats rammed through a loaded spending bill that skirts the tough decisions and kicks the can down the road on spending until a lame duck Congress reconvenes after the election. In doing so, they failed to confront the multiple crises the Nation faces, from skyrocketing inflation to a recessionary economy, open borders, and surging crime levels. Nearly three-quarters of Americans now say their paychecks are not keeping pace with inflation. For these folks, we needed to do better and a Congress under new management will. Additionally, my colleagues and I demanded answers as to the Administration’s plans to ensure the acquisition of U.S. agricultural land from foreign entities does not become a national security threat. As always, I had the chance to meet with Sixth District constituents and hear their concerns. Finally, our thoughts and prayers remain with those devastated by the tragedy of Hurricane Ian, which requires everyone to come together to rebuild communities and address the needs of the people afflicted.
Commitment to America, Pillar II: A Nation That’s Safe
Last week, I highlighted the unveiling of the Commitment to America, that outlines a plan of what Republicans will do if given the opportunity to lead and govern with a new majority in Congress. I laid out our economic plan last week, and this week I will expand on pillar II, the plan to keep our Nation safe.
Today, the Nation is dealing with the consequences of an open border, a drug and fentanyl crisis, and rising crime after years of Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies across the country. The Biden Administration’s rescinding the successful yet abandoned “Remain in Mexico” policy and reinstating “Catch and Release” were matches that sparked the forest fire at the border, resulting in 3.5 million illegal crossings, 900,000 ‘got-aways,’ and 78 known individuals encountered at the border on the Terrorist Screening Database.
There is also a crime wave sweeping across this country, and police departments throughout the Nation are pleading for help from Washington because soft-on-crime mayors, politicians, and prosecutors have turned their backs on them. One can hardly turn on a TV without witnessing horrific crimes perpetrated every weekend. We are facing the highest murder rate in over 20 years, with another 20-year high of intentional killings of law enforcement, while at the same time, aggravated assaults and robberies are on the rise. Couple this with soft-on-crime district attorneys and we have created a recipe for lawlessness. As a former prosecutor in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I know the formula for safer streets: invest in law enforcement, community policing, no lax bail policies, and a criminal justice system that protects our communities by enforcing the law.
Republicans offer a safer America. We have pledged to bolster border security and technology and reverse the open border policies of the Biden Administration. At the same time, we will pass legislation to hire 200,000 additional police officers, increase police budgets through grants to the states, a crackdown on pro-crime prosecutors as well as drug dealers, and increase fentanyl to a schedule I narcotic. Internationally, Republicans support a strong national defense in which America protects her friends and instills fear into her enemies, all while using her military might only when necessary and prudently.
Business as Usual in Washington
Without any bipartisan consideration, Congressional Democrats and President Biden have jammed through an agenda that has ravaged paychecks and left Americans worse off on multiple fronts. True to form, last week, they passed a funding measure that funds the government only until December 16th, which allows them to use a lame-duck session of Congress to continue to load up a massive end-of-the-year spending bill. This will only add to the misery families are experiencing due to the rising prices of nearly everything they buy.
Consider some of the policies Democrats slipped into this funding bill:
-$57.5 BILLION for DHS to continue open border and amnesty policies that have allowed illegal migrants to pour across our Southern border and drug cartels to smuggle deadly fentanyl into our communities under Secretary Mayorkas’ failed leadership.
-$10.8 BILLION for the FBI that the Biden Administration has weaponized against Americans who disagree with its policies, including parents concerned about their kids in school.
-$12.6 BILLION for the IRS on top of the $80 BILLION the Democrats just gave to hire 87,000 new agents to spy into the bank accounts of Americans and conduct more audits on small businesses.
-$728 BILLION to a Department of Defense that is too focused on promoting the radical Left’s woke ideology when it ought to be singularly focused on protecting our national security at home and abroad.
-$3.8 BILLION for a Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program that pays for the increased energy costs for those that live in anti-fracking states like New York – without addressing the real cause of the energy crisis, which is Democrats’ socialist Green New Deal agenda.
Americans are hurting, and their paychecks are suffering, yet Democrats continue to fund damaging policies with billions of American taxpayer dollars. The American people and western Virginians deserve better. Soon they will have a chance to change course to a brighter future.
Protecting America’s Security
Foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land has nearly doubled over the past decade from 2010-2020, and my colleagues and I wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to assess the national security implications of this development. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported that foreign individuals and entities held an interest in 37.6 million acers of agricultural lands as of the year 2021. While free and fair trade is beneficial to our industries, my colleagues and I are concerned about the national security risk posed by a Chinese company’s purchase of farmland near an Air Force base in North Dakota that houses top-secret technologies. Congress must ensure this is not a national security threat, especially from the Chinese government. To read the full letter, click here.
Meeting with Constituents
Last week in Virginia, there was an average of 14 daily cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, down from 17 last week. This week’s COVID-19 test positivity rate was 11%, down from 13% last week. For more information, click here.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Rep. Ben Cline demands answers from Secretary Buttigieg, Federal Highway Admin on preventing use of infrastructure funds for highway expansion
WASHINGTON – On October 4, 2022, Congressman Ben Cline (R-VA-06) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Acting Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Stephanie Pollack demanding a complete breakdown of how funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has been used, following reports that FHWA issued guidance that would put projects designated to expand highway capacity at the back of the line for approval.
The letter was co-signed by Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN-03), who is Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-OR-02), Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX-03), Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02), Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL-18), and Congressman Randy Weber (R-TX-14).
“During a time of 40-year high inflation, a crippling supply chain, and higher prices of goods and services, the Biden administration is prioritizing infrastructure funds for Green New Deal projects over highway expansion,” said Congressman Cline. “Americans need transparency from this administration to ensure their tax dollars are being properly used.”
“The American people deserve to know if President Biden is using taxpayer dollars to secretly implement liberal green new deal policies. I am glad to partner with Congressman Cline to protect taxpayers and demand transparency from this radical administration,” said Congressman Jim Banks, Republican Study Committee Chairman.
“With families across the country continuing to deal with a supply chain crisis that has kept everything from baby formula to appliances off the shelves, the Biden Administration needs to get their priorities straight by focusing on what matters to the American people instead of wasting more dollars on a radical, far-left agenda,” said Congressman Brian Mast.
“Not only is the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act ridden with Green New Deal priorities, but it does so at the expense of critical, traditional infrastructure such as highway capacity projects. As a result, rural communities dependent on surface transportation bear the brunt. The Biden Administration must be held accountable for this blatant effort to further the left’s climate agenda,” said Congressman Cliff Bentz.
Read the full letter below.
Dear Secretary Buttigieg and Acting Administrator Pollack,
We write today to request an immediate update regarding the impacts of Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) December 2021 guidance on the use of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding.
The American public already knows that much of the IIJA’s $1 trillion are reserved for projects designed to advance a Green New Deal agenda instead of actual infrastructure, such as the $66 billion in taxpayer giveaways to bloated and incompetent public transit systems, $65 billion to add expensive green energy to the grid, $50 billion for loosely defined “climate resilience”, $21.5 billion for demonstration projects related to intermittent and expensive energy sources, and $7.5 billion for stations to charge expensive electric vehicles, among hundreds of billions in other wasteful spending. What they may not know is, according to the guidance, the Biden administration also intends to hamstring funding that is designated for traditional infrastructure, such as roads and highways, in the name of those liberal goals.
Specifically, the guidance states the FHWA “where permitted by law, [will] require…recipients of Federal highway funding to select projects that improve the condition and safety of existing transportation infrastructure within the right-of-way before advancing projects that add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles.”1 This policy puts projects that would expand highway capacity at the back of the line for approval and discriminates against communities that rely on surface transportation—rural communities in particular. Further, while the guidance exempts projects favored by green special interests such as bicycle lanes from any further NEPA approvals, it singles out highway capacity projects for “…more scrutiny under NEPA.”
Perhaps most troubling is the fact the Biden administration is intentionally preventing the use of highway funds to expand highway capacity and promote economic growth when it has just driven our nation into a recession and caused record inflation.
We request that the FHWA provide a comprehensive breakdown of funding awarded to date under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Specifically, please provide the total awarded funding for projects that do not add general purpose travel lanes compared with total funding for projects that add general purpose travel lanes. Further, we request a comprehensive list detailing the status of project applications that would add new purpose travel lanes that have yet to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. Please provide this information by October 20, 2022.
Warner cosponsors legislation to make adoption tax credit fully refundable
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Caucus, joined U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and 23 of his Senate colleagues in sponsoring the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act – legislation to make the existing federal tax credit for adoption expenses fully refundable and ensure that more families can benefit from this critical support. This legislation aims to support lower-income families that are adopting as well as address the number of children “aging out” of the foster care system.
“Every child deserves a loving and supportive home,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will enable more families to claim the adoption tax credit and pave the way for more children to be adopted into safe, stable, caring homes.”
The adoption tax credit was made permanent in the American Taxpayer Relief Act in January 2013. However, that law did not extend the refundability provisions that applied to the adoption tax credit in 2010 and 2011. The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act will restore the refundable portion of this critical support for families wishing to adopt.
According to data, Virginia ranks near the bottom of states – 49 out of 50 – when it comes to the percentage of children who “age out” of the foster care system. Virginia also has a higher percentage of older youth in foster care than the nation as a whole. This bill aims to help families seeking to adopt by removing some of the financial constraints families considering adoption face.
Data indicate that a refundable adoption tax credit significantly affects lower-income families’ ability to adopt and support a child from foster care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one-third of all adopted children live in families with an annual household income at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Despite the common misperception that only wealthy families adopt, nearly 46 percent of families adopting from foster care are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Many of these families’ tax burdens are so low that they cannot benefit from the adoption tax credit unless it is refundable.
Warner Weekly Wrap-Up: No Days Off
Happy Friday from the Warner press office! Sen. Warner embodied the “no days off” mentality as the Senate finished up its September business. This week, he traveled to Northern Virginia to make huge announcements for infrastructure projects, voted to keep the government funded, spoke on the Senate floor about his Joint Consolidated Loan Separation Act becoming law, and introduced bills to smooth the rollout of broadband funding, protect election workers, and improve the VA’s ability to invest in veterans facilities.
Let’s get into it:
BUILD (LONG) BRIDGES, NOT WALLS
The bipartisan infrastructure law is bringing major funding and exciting projects to Virginia. Sen. Warner spent the morning announcing $20 million for a Potomac-spanning pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will connect the Mt. Vernon bike trail in Virginia to downtown Washington. This new bridge is a crucial component of the broader Long Bridge project, which will relieve a major passenger and freight rail bottleneck by constructing a new two-track bridge upstream and expanding the existing railroad corridor, which is currently the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., from two tracks to four.
Sen. Warner has been a longtime advocate for the $1.9 billion Long Bridge project. In 2020, he passed legislation transferring four acres of land required for the project from the federal government to Virginia and the District of Columbia. Once complete, the rail expansion will double the capacity of the Potomac River crossing and is projected to bring an annual $6 billion in benefits to the region by 2040. Sen. Warner, a key author of the bipartisan infrastructure law, said about the project,
“I am thrilled to announce this new funding for the Long Bridge Pedestrian Crossing project. This $20 million was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law I was proud to help write and will help the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority complete a new span across the Potomac dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians. This project is a key component of the broader effort to fix a major rail chokepoint and expand commuter and passenger service over the Potomac River.”
New announcements for projects made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law are ongoing and will continue for the next decade. In the past week, there have been major announcements for carbon capture projects and historic investments in water infrastructure. Learn more about the huge investments in Virginia through this page on Sen. Warner’s website.
After the Long Bridge event, Sen. Warner heard from more constituents across Northern Virginia at a suicide prevention roundtable, a Hispanic Heritage Month Gala, and several employers across the region.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Congress voted to keep the lights on this week by passing a continuing resolution that will fund the government through December. This legislation also appropriates funding for several important priorities, including key aid to Ukraine as they fend off Russia’s brutal assault. After passing the bill, Sens. Warner and Kaine said,
“We’re relieved that this legislation will keep the government operating; allow the Food and Drug Administration to continue its review of innovative drugs and medical devices; deliver critical disaster relief funding to Puerto Rico; and send a strong message that the U.S. continues to stand with Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty against the brutal dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. It’s going to take some more time for Congress to finalize the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, and we are going to keep fighting to keep intact the nearly $135 million we secured for Virginia in that budget as the process continues.”
While a shutdown was averted this time, Sen. Warner continues to be an outspoken advocate for reforming the process through which government funding occurs:
RELIEF FOR VICTIMS OF CONSOLIDATED STUDENT LOANS
If you’ve been following this story for awhile now, you may have heard that Sen. Warner’s legislation to free borrowers trapped in exploitative consolidated loans has passed both the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis and is expected to be signed into law by President Biden next week!
Sen. Warner originally introduced this legislation after a constituent named Sara contacted him about a consolidated student loan she was trapped in with an ex-husband who refused to pay. Thousands of borrowers nationally are ensnared in these nightmarish loans, which leave borrowers victim to domestic or financial abuse and with no options for loan relief programs.
This week, Sen. Warner called several borrowers, including Sara, to discuss his progress on the legislation and hear more about their experiences. On Wednesday, he took to the Senate Floor to share the stories of impacted borrowers, celebrate the potential freedom for borrowers, and call for President Biden to sign this into law as quickly as possible.
During the speech, Sen. Warner said,
“I am hopeful that Pres. Biden will sign this into law as soon as possible so that these borrowers can finally experience freedom from financial and domestic abuse… freedom to control their own financial future… and freedom to enjoy the same benefits as other borrowers across the country.”
Sen. Warner is committed to hearing and telling the stories of impacted borrowers like Brigid and Chris to stress the importance of getting this legislation signed as soon as possible.
PROTECTING ELECTION WORKERS: Sen. Warner, a member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections, is cosponsoring comprehensive legislation to address the rise in threats targeting election workers.
AMPLIFYING BROADBAND: Sen. Warner introduced legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code to ensure that funding directed for the implementation of broadband from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will not be considered taxable income.
INVESTING IN VETS: Sen. Warner sponsored the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2022 – legislation to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to carry out key infrastructure projects, including medical facilities, in order to better care for veterans across the country. Virginia has one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing concentrations of veterans, resulting in increased demand for the services and benefits provided by the VA.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Senate will be in recess through the month of October. Sen. Warner will be using the time to meet with constituents across Virginia – including some open press events – and to travel internationally with a bipartisan congressional delegation to strengthen relationships with nations in Asia.
Fischer, Warner introduce bipartisan legislation to help Americans protect their savings from inflation
U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Mark Warner (D-VA.) introduced the Savings Security Act on September 27, 2022. The legislation would help the American people protect their savings from changes in inflation by increasing the public’s ability to utilize I Bonds, a type of savings bond created by the U.S. Treasury Department. Series I Savings Bonds were created so consumers could invest their hard-earned savings in something that isn’t hurt by inflation, earns a reasonable rate of return and is backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government.
“The American people are scrambling for ways to protect their earnings from rampant inflation. I Bonds are one option consumers should be able to leverage. Arbitrary purchasing caps on I Bonds, however, are shortchanging the public from better utilizing the program. Our bill would raise the annual purchasing cap to ensure working families can insulate a greater portion of their savings from the pain of sky-high inflation,” said Senator Fischer.
“We need to take an all-encompassing approach to help families facing high costs. In tandem with our inflation-fighting efforts, and intervention from the Federal Reserve, this legislation would allow Americans to better shield their finances from the unpredictability of inflation and offer peace of mind during difficult economic times,” said Senator Warner.
Currently, the Treasury Department caps annual purchases of I Bonds at $15,000 per person per year. The Savings Security Act would require the Treasury Secretary to raise the annual cap to $30,000 per person when the average six-month annual Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) is above 3.5%. The new purchase limit only applies to families and individuals. Businesses and trusts would not be eligible for the increased cap.
Series I Bonds are a type of savings bond created by the U.S. Treasury. I Bonds earn monthly interest for 30 years, or until the saver cashes out of the bond.
I Bonds were created in 1998 during the Clinton Administration as a financial tool that families can utilize to protect their savings from the negative impacts of high inflation.
The Treasury Department currently caps annual I Bonds purchases at $15,000 per person. That includes $10,000 per person per year in electric I Bonds and an additional $5,000 per year in paper-issued I Bonds purchased through a federal income tax return. The Savings Security Act would require the Treasury Secretary to raise the annual cap to $30,000 per person when the CPI-U exceeds 3.5%. The Savings Security Act does not change the $5,000 per person paper I bond cap.
I-Bonds can only be purchased via Treasurydirect.gov or your federal income tax return.
The annual inflation rate in the United States is 8.3%
Warner & Kaine announce $2 million in federal funding to expand access to substance use prevention & treatment in Luray and Tappahannock
On September 26, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2 million in federal funding for the Virginia Rural Health Association in Luray and the Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance in Tappahannock to expand access to substance use disorder treatment and prevention services. The funding for Luray was awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, and the funding for Tappahannock was awarded through HRSA’s Medication Assisted Treatment Access Program.
In a joint statement, Senator Warner and Kaine said, “The opioid and substance use crisis continues to have a devastating impact on Virginians across the Commonwealth, particularly in communities with limited access to treatment and preventive services. Every Virginian struggling with a substance use disorder deserves critical care and support, and we’re glad this funding will provide greater resources for them.”
The funding will be distributed as follows:
- $1,000,000 for the Virginia Rural Health Association to expand treatment and prevention services for substance use disorders
- $1,000,000 for the Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance to establish a new medication-assisted treatment access point that will provide medications and support services for individuals with opioid and substance use disorders
Warner and Kaine have long worked to address the opioid and substance use crisis that has impacted communities across Virginia. Last month, Warner and Kaine pressed the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for additional assistance to combat drug trafficking in the Appalachian region. In March 2021, Warner and Kaine voted to pass the American Rescue Plan, which provided Virginia with nearly $70 million in funding to bolster mental health and substance abuse programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, Kaine was critical in passing a comprehensive bill to address opioid and substance use disorder treatment and prevention. Kaine recently held a roundtable with community leaders in Harrisonburg about the need to provide more support and treatment for Virginians with substance use disorders.